Pendleton County’s Most Magnificent Towers – Nelson Rocks

Penned by Charles S. Nelson  :  Nov. 28, 1903  –  Oct. 22, 1988

Born a half mile from these towers, he enjoyed their beauty most every day until a stroke in 1985 confined him to a nursing home. Edited and condensed by his daughter, Lorella Lee Nelson-Mitchell, who took the Dec. 1973 background photo of her father on top the southwest find of Nelson Rocks. The extract below if from Charles nelson’s “To be an American and other poems.” More information about the book can be obtained from Lorella Mitchell Nelson at or you can contact NROC directly at or 1-877-435-4842

Much has been written about the historic and scenic spots in Pendleton County, and appropriately so.  But in the praises, spoken and written, of places of interest and beauty, one most beautiful and lofty massive structure has seldom been included.  This point of magnificence is Nelson Rocks, less than three miles northeast of the village of Circleville, and just across the North Fork river valley from the highest point in the state, Spruce Knob.

These rocks change from a cold gray color to lighter gray to red mixed with yellow as the time of day and position of the sun changes.  Behold them in the morning before they have been brightened by the sunlight, and they appear as statues, standing cold and dumb, without even an affable glare.  Then turn toward their friendly side when light brings out their changefulness of color, and see the perfection of beauty reflected from each pinnacle and crevice; through every cordial sunbeam they speak silently a message sublime.

The massive formation of their walls, columns, and peaks presents a display of grandeur.  Two solid walls, two or three hundred feet apart at their bases on each side of the creek that comes rippling and sometimes roaring down, extend almost parallel for about a half mile toward the summits of two mountain ridges.  One ledge on either side of the creek extends across the top as part of the chain of formations seen through the valley, the loftiest of which I can only faintly describe.  Some of the columns stand as if careful monumental arrangement had designed them to mark the spot of earth’s only paradise.  Other towering columns extend so high as to become artistically sloped pinnacles, pointing in devotion to an infinite Creator.  To stand in the winding road at their base by the stream, and gaze in wonder and amazement toward the top of the perpendicular columns, makes the head grow dizzy and the eyes glimmer as they transfer to a longer-range focus.

An idea of their height may be had from the fact that it took a full double-charge of powder from a hunter’s rifle, in the hands of a skilled marksman, to bring down from his perch on one of their peaks, a wild turkey loftily resting there.  When paralyzed by the musket ball from my great-grandfather Job’s rifle, the bird tumbled into the abyss below, and was picked up a mangled mass, but an enviable trophy of the challenge.  Sometime between 1970 and 1985, this pinnacle was named Job’s Turkey by the rock climbers.

Large boulders are abundant at the base of these rocky walls, having been broken during some great upheaval or by pressure of flood waters centuries ago.  Bits are often shattered from their massive sides by violent strikes of lightning and the breaking fingers of frost and ice.  Roots of trees and shrubs also pry into their crevices and break away an occasional mass.  Against their sides and upon their tops grow the pines, ferns, and lichens, making a perfection of decoration.  In springtime when the laurel blossoms, it appears as a fairy queen’s garden, and is one of the most beautiful pages in God’s great book of nature.  When snow caps hang upon their pinnacles and each offset is pure white, when the evergreens against their sides and upon the slopes below bow beneath their new white array, one would call it a Christmas fairyland.

These majestic monuments have stood through multiplied centuries.  The eagle has built her nest and reared her young among their crags.  Foxes have sought refuge from the hunter’s dog in their cavernous openings, or escaped with nimble feet through some well known crevice.  Birds have warbled forth their songs from the bushes against their sides.  Flowers have grown and died upon their very tops.  Schoolboys have scaled their walls, and lovers have confided their most profound secrets in their shadows.  Many, including six generations of my ancestors, have beheld them.  But there they tower still, from earth toward heaven, monuments to those sleeping upon the hilltops just in sight.

Admirers of beauty everywhere, come to this picturesque glen in summer, winter, spring, or autumn.  Behold these colossal towers, these monumental columns which tarnish not with age; feel that sometime in the millenniums of the past there was present in this part of West Virginia a Master architect who perfected His work and stepped aside to smile approval upon the generations of human worshippers at this majestic shrine.  As you gaze, long and wonderingly, upon and toward the summit of these statues standing in unmistakable silence, you will hear a voice from somewhere speaking to your soul, and there will be no doubt as your footsteps trace homeward that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork – Psalm 19:1.”

Charles was the son of Cecil (1871-1962), grandson of Elijah Stewart (1846-1931) and Joseph (1853-1928), and great-grandson of Job (1817-1895) of Isaac (1773- abt 1850) of John (abt 1750-aft 1820) of Thomas (abt 1730-abt 1789), the first Nelson in Pendleton County.


About nrocstaff

Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center (NROC) is located in the beautiful North Fork Valley of Pendleton County, West Virginia. NROC, formerly know as the Nelson Rocks Preserve, is a privately-owned nature preserve that encompasses 145 mountainous acres. Home to incredible rock climbing, via ferrata climbing, a canopy tour, and miles of breathtaking, awe-inspiring hiking trails NROC is sure to offer the dose of adventure that’s right for you. View all posts by nrocstaff

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